> 7 Tips for Cleaning Fruit & Vegetables - The Food Safety Company 7 Tips for Cleaning Fruit & Vegetables - The Food Safety Company
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    Wednesday, 16 November 2016

    7 Tips for Cleaning Fruit & Vegetables

    It’s estimated that over a million people a year in the UK are sickened by food poisoning from food contaminated by pathogens. Some of the causes might surprise you!

    Most people know that obviously dangerous food such as raw meat must be handled with care to avoid contamination, but it’s not as common knowledge that fruit and vegetables can transmit lots of harmful germs as well. Indeed, some of the worst food safety incidents ever were related to fruit and vegetables.

    Fresh produce can become contaminated in a number of ways. During the growing phase, they may be polluted by animals, harmful substances in the soil or water, or poor hygiene amongst workers. After harvest, the produce then passes through the hands of many more workers, whose hygiene may be poor. Contamination can even occur after the food has been purchased, during food preparation, or through improper storage.

    For a start, when you choose fruit or vegetables at the supermarket, avoid fruit that is bruised or damaged, and make sure that any pre-cut items have been well refrigerated, both in the supermarket and at home.

    Following that, here are seven quick tips you can follow to makes sure your fresh fruit is sparkling clean and free from any nasty bugs:

    1) Wash Your Hands

    An obvious piece of hygiene advice, but you should do it before preparing any kind of food, even fruit and vegetables. Aim for around 20 seconds of washing with warm water and soap to ensure as many germs as possible are removed.

    2) Cut Away Damaged or Bruised Areas before Peeling

    Damaged or bruised parts of the fruit or veg can harbour lots of germs. They indicate that the protective surface has been broken, possibly by something bearing contaminants. As the cell walls break down, nutrients leak into the open, inviting colonisation by microbes already present on the surface of the fruit or in the air. As they feed on the fruit’s exposed innards, the pathogens can multiply rapidly.

    3) Gently Rub Under Running Water

    This helps remove dirt and contaminants from the surface of the fruit or veg. Soil especially can harbour harmful germs, not to mention it doesn’t particularly add to the texture when you’re eating it. There’s no need to use soap, as plain running water should be sufficient to clean off the majority, and chemicals from soap can actually be harmful if consumed.

    4) Wash BEFORE Peeling or Chopping

    Make sure you wash the fruit or veg before you peel or chop it. This prevents contaminants from being transferred to the knife and onto the chopped food, or to your hands and onto the peeled fruit.

    5) Use a Vegetable Brush

    To add to the previous two tips, if you really want to make sure your produce is clean, you can use a vegetable brush. This is particularly effective on hard items such as melons or cucumbers that can be difficult to rub clean with your hands. Any kind of stiff-bristled scrubbing brush will do the job.

    6) Dry with a Clean Towel

    Dry off your now clean fruit and veg with a clean towel, or a paper towel. This takes off any final layer of dirt or contaminants. If you’re washing salad it could be quite tedious to dry every small leaf, and for this reason salad spinners are quite popular tools to dry off salad.

    7) Remove Outer Layers if Possible

    After a thorough washing, remove the outer layer of the fruit or veg if possible. This is obviously easy with peelable fruit, and can also be done with vegetables such as lettuce or cabbage. This takes off any skin that may have been exposed to contaminants, leaving only the fresh goodness inside.

    It’s impossible to achieve 100% safety from germs and contaminants, but by following the steps laid out in this guide, you can minimise the risk of your fruit and vegetables bearing nasty pathogens, hopefully preventing any bouts of explosive enteritis.

    Sam Franklin

    With a master’s in Literature, Sam inhales books and anything readable, spending his working hours reformulating the info he gathers into digestible articles. When not reading or writing, he likes to put his camera to work around the world, snapping street photography from Stockholm to Tokyo. Too much of this time spent in Japan teaching English has nurtured a weakness for sashimi, Japanese whisky, and robot cafés.
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